We have all been writing essays, critiques and literature reviews since junior high. These writing exercises prepared you to take on the task of writing a formal literature review, which you may have done as an undergraduate. A literature review, or lit review, is an account of what has been published on a topic by accredited scholars and researchers. Often, a lit review is embedded as part of a larger essay or thesis or dissertation or it may stand on its own.
Your purpose is to:
As a piece of writing, the lit review must be defined by a guiding concept - your research objective or the problem or issues you are discussing. What the lit review is NOT is just a descriptive list of material you have found on your topic.
The writing of a lit review lets the writer gain and demonstrate skills in two important areas:
A lit review is a piece of discursive (fluid, expansive) prose, not a list describing or summarizing one piece of literature after another. Organize your lit review into logical sections that present themes or identify trends, including relevant theory. The purpose of the review is not to present a bibliography of all the works published on the selected topic. It synthesizes and evaluates the material according to the guiding concept of the thesis or research question.
The PowerPoint file is used during the in-house and online Literature Review Express Training sessions. You will need the PowerPoint program loaded on your computer to open the file.
If you open the file and the notes are not at the bottom of the slide, you might want to click on the VIEW tab and then on Notes Page icon in the Presentation Views box. This will put the slide and the notes all on one page for easier viewing.
Read, Read, Read some more. In the beginning you will need to read quite broadly on the topic or issue you are going to research so that you will have an in-depth understanding of your topic and its field. By reading broadly you will be able to identify gaps in the research, which may provide you with a niche for your own research. Extensive reading will also give you the background to prove how your research will extend or enhance the studies already done. Keep in mind that your lit review must relate to and explain your research question. You may find hundreds of sources that appear pertinent; however, once you have your question narrowed and refined then your reading will become narrower and you will only want to see information (journal articles, book or book chapters, gray material, web sites) that are on point.
Your lit review must accomplish four (4) essential tasks:
To help you accomplish these tasks, here are a series of questions to ask.